Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Multimedia Today

To begin we start with Wikipedia's definition of multimedia--
media that utilizes a combination of different content forms. The term can be used as a noun (a medium with multiple content forms) or as an adjective describing a medium as having multiple content forms. The term is used in contrast to media which only utilize traditional forms of printed or hand-produced text and still graphics. In general, multimedia includes a combination of text, audio, still images, animation, video, and interactivity content forms. Multimedia may be broadly divided into linear and non-linear categories. Linear active content progresses without any navigation control for the viewer such as a cinema presentation. Non-linear content offers user interactivity to control progress as used with a computer game or used in self-paced computer based training. Non-linear content is also known as hypermedia content.

This definition is quite a bit broader than the mixed media presentation I know from the art world where a variety of art forms are mixed together, e.g. dance performance combined with visual images and music, or an installation piece at an art gallery that might combine film or traditional paintings with soundscapes. We've known for a long time that the artist's statement has a stronger impact on the viewer as more senses come into play. So, it is too, in today's world of multimedia.

The big difference between a mixed media presentation of old, and some of today's multimedia experiences, is the addition of two powerful new tools-- interactivity and hypermedia links.
The addition of a viewer (or learner) controlled aspect to the experience moves learning into a brave new world that is self-directed.

Of particular interest is the ways that educators and students are using multimedia creations in the Web 2.0 world to create some amazing experiential documents. Document is perhaps not quite the right word, because the most interesting feature of all is the interactive aspect. Using Voicethreads or Jumpcut people can easily connect still images, sound, animation, video and allow viewers to respond with either spoken or written comments.

As Joyce Valenza reminds us in:

Top School Library Things to Think About in 2008

Joyce <span class=
"The end-product of research and inquiry should be communication of knowledge. And the options for communication exploded this year. ... We can reform PowerPoint for presentation and we can explore a wealth of other creative Web-based presentation options. .... VoiceThread is just one powerful option with nearly no learning curve."

I like this introduction from the VoiceThread site:
‘Participation is not optional’
A VoiceThread allows every child in a class to record audio commentary about the ideas and experiences that are important to them. Whether it’s an event, a project, or a milestone, children can tell their story in their own voice, and then share it with the world. For teachers, a VoiceThread offers a single vessel to capture and then share all the diverse personalities of an entire class. A VoiceThread can be managed with little effort, creating an heirloom that can be shared by students, parents, and educators alike. You can hear the pride and excitement in their voices as the students “publish” and archive their work. Behind every photo, drawing, or project, is at least one story, and often many more. VoiceThreads offer a simple way to capture and share them. This act of ‘publishing’ a creation which can then be seen all the way from Cheyenne to Shanghai, strongly reinforces the message we try to send to our children everyday, that their work is great, and worthy of the world’s attention.

I listened to a podcast at the Technology Shopping Cart site where co-founders of VoiceThread , Steve Muth and Ben Popell described the intent of their creation, and further provided details of Ed.VoiceThread , their new offering for educators that includes many new safeguards put in place so that this tool can be used with accountability. They describe their idea of letting students get their ideas out into the wide world, the global village---to receive feedback and enhance learning.
"The Ed.VoiceThread network is a worldwide community where safety is built upon a foundation of accountability. All users are known users, responsible for their content and behavior. Access is restricted to K-12 educators, students and administrators, and all content is created exclusively by registered members of the community. Web services offering free accounts are blocked in many school districts because of child online protection policies, and are not eligible for federal eRate monies. For this reason, there are no free Ed.VoiceThread accounts and student email addresses are not required. Educators must pay a one time $10 verification fee to become a member of the community, with no recurring costs."

Another feature that I liked on the Ed.VoiceThread is that a student's work can be saved from year to year:

As long as a school or class remains a subscriber to the network we continue to store student work indefinitely. Because our pricing is not based on 'seats', log-ins, or users, every year you can add new student users without deleting the old ones. This is critical to the goal of building year-over-year student portfolios.
For my purposes the free version of VoiceThreads was fine, though Muth and Popell discussed the fact that Voicethreads is often blocked in schools. Both the tech folks and administration need to see the value before changes are made to the system. Ed.VoiceThread offers a secure alternative for an affordable price. For more details and comparisons check About VoiceThreads .

1 comment:

Linda Morgan said...

Liked the idea of saving a child's work from year to year...we used to have paper portfolios at our school. The portfolios were kept from year to year (as I recall, they had one piece of art and one piece of writing in them from each grade - we had a fairly stable school population) but we've since discontinued the practise. Maybe it should be reawakened, with tech revisions....